Today, two major datasets have been published by the government looking at the current rates of drug use in England and Wales: Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England in 2010 and Drug Misuse Declared: Findings from the 2010/11 British Crime Survey.
Martin Barnes, Chief Executive of DrugScope, said today:
“While the broad downward trends we can see in today’s figures on drug use among school pupils and adults are both welcome and encouraging, the UK still has high levels of drug use in comparison to many of our European neighbours.
“The inclusion of mephedrone in the British Crime Survey for the first time reveals conclusively the extent to which the drug has become established on the drug market. Our magazine Druglink first reported on mephedrone back in March 2009 and it has quickly become a popular substance among existing recreational drug users. It is concerning that levels of use of mephedrone are the same as cocaine and second only to cannabis. Evidence on the long-term harms associated with the drug is still unclear, as is information on the risks of using it in combination with other substances. Given the timing of this survey, it is likely to include people who used the drug before it was classified in April 2010.
“Addaction, a DrugScope member and leading provider of young people’s treatment, has today voiced concern, as their services have seen a rise in the number of young people coming forward for help with problems relating to alcohol, ketamine and mephedrone - at a time when funding for young people’s treatment services is being severely affected by local authority cuts. DrugScope and a number of our member organisations have recently spoken out about funding cuts which appear to be disproportionately affecting young people’s drug treatment, education and prevention work.
“These datasets are not designed to provide a full picture of the extent of problematic drug use. Investment in good quality drug treatment and support remains absolutely essential; now is not the time to be cutting the specialist services that can support people who develop problems with drugs or alcohol.”
Key findings: young people aged 11 – 15 in England
The NHS Information Centre has published Smoking, drinking and drug use among young people in England in 2010, a survey of 7,296 school pupils aged 11 to 15 at 246 schools in England, carried out in the autumn term of 2010. Key findings from the survey include:
- 18 per cent of pupils reported that they had ever taken drugs. This represents a decline since 2001 from 29 per cent;
- cannabis remains the most widely used drug, with 8.2 per cent of pupils reporting having used it in the last year compared with 13.4% in 2001;
- vulnerable pupils, defined as those who had truanted or been excluded from school, were more likely to take drugs at least once a month than other pupils and were also more likely to have taken a Class A drug in the last year;
- 55 per cent of young people had never drunk alcohol, an increase from 39 per cent in 2003;
- the mean amount of alcohol consumed by those who did drink in the last week was 12.9 units. Since 2007, mean consumption levels have remained high, falling between 11.6 units and 14.6 units with no clear trend;
- young people are becoming less tolerant of drinking and drunkenness among their peers; 11 per cent said it was ok for someone their age to get drunk once a week, compared to 20 per cent in 2003;
- 5 per cent of pupils were categorised as regular smokers, that is, they smoked at least once a week compared to 10 per cent in 2000;
- there has been a sustained decline in the number of pupils who have ever smoked, from 44 per cent in 2001 to 27 per cent in 2010.
Key findings: adults aged 16 - 59 in England and Wales
The Home Office has published the results of its annual survey of the general adult population aged 16 - 59, Drug Misuse Declared: Findings from the 2010/11 British Crime Survey. The household survey was carried out by Home Office researchers during the period April 2010 to March 2011. The key findings include:
- statistics show that overall, drug use continues to fall, although the fall since 2009/10 is not defined as ‘statistically significant’. According to the 2010/11 survey, 8.8% of adults had used illicit substances in the last year compared 8.6% in 2009/10. This figure peaked at 12.3% in 2003/04;
- cannabis use among 16 to 59 year olds continues to fall from its peak in 2002/03. 6.8% of 16-59 year olds tried cannabis in the last year compared to 6.6% in 2009/10. However, 17.1% of 16-24 year olds tried cannabis in the last year compared to 16.1% in 2009/10;
- alongside cocaine, mephedrone is the second most prevalent drug amongst 16-24 year olds, being used by 4.4% of the cohort in the last year. This is the first time mephedrone has been included in the survey after it was controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act in May 2010. While the figure is reported in the summary, mephedrone has not been added to the data tables this year;
- ketamine use has more than doubled amongst young people since being included on the survey. Use amongst 16-24 year olds has increased from 0.8% in 2006/07 to 2.1% in 2010/11;
- there has been a statistically significant increase in the use of methadone. Use in the last year has risen from 0.1% in previous years, to 0.2% in 2010/11;
solvents have been dropped from the list of substances covered by the survey.